QUAERITUR: harmonizing with the priest during the doxology

From a reader:

Please don’t think I’m a heretic, but I was at one of those great
circumstances where multiple celebrants sang the last part of the
Eucharistic prayer (which I think is the doxology). They sang it
together and on key. That is so wonderful.

I would love to have a musical setting where it would be possible for
a cantor, choir, or congregation to harmonize with the celebrant(s). I understand it would confuse roles to have non-priests sing any of the same words as the priests. How would I explore this?

You don’t explore it.  It is forbidden for anyone other than the celebrant and, if present, concelebrants to sing that part at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer(s).  Even priests or bishops who are present, but not concelebrating, cannot sing that together with the celebrant.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thomas S says:

    I spent 2 weeks in Ireland this summer and attened several Masses in several places.

    Without exception, the congregation joined in singing the doxology. I was taken aback. I was pretty sure this wasn’t allowed, but even a couple seemingly traditional parishes did this.

    (Oops, there was one exception. St. Kevin’s in Dublin, EF Mass.)

  2. Philangelus says:

    I suppose it’s not even worth asking about the parish I briefly attended where they had the congregation recite the Eucharistic prayer along with the priest. :-b

  3. Papabile says:

    The communal singing of the doxology in Europe may be a remnant of the liturgical movement prior to the Council.

    If one looks back at the National Liturgical Weeks here in the US and European equivalents, you will see this advocated at the per ipsum.

    For years, my Father said it quietly, as he had been taught to do that when in the Navy in the 1950’s…. When he found out it was forbidden, he ceased it.

  4. Levavi says:

    I’m pretty certain that concelebrations makes this tendency worse. I’ve seen joining in happen more at concelebrated Masses than otherwise. When people see or hear some group singing at this point in the Mass, they instinctively join in.

  5. Rob Cartusciello says:

    This was a trend among certain Jesuits in the 90s. During small weekday celebrations, the congregation was invited to stand around the altar and various members invited to recite parts of the Canon following the Consecration.

    At one Mass, they simply passed the Sacramentary around, until I refused. Interestingly, the priest asked me why I refused, I explained why and >he never celebrated Mass like that again<.

    Little gestures can teach.

  6. Magpie says:

    Thomas S:

    At my parish in Northern Ireland, the priest invites the people to say the Doxology thus:

    ”Let us pray together: Through him, with him, in him…”

  7. Gail F says:

    Magpie: !!!!! Even my priest would not attempt this.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    There is one priest in my diocese who would encourage this. I was never so irate at Mass. I tried to give people puzzled/dirty looks, but there were just too many doing it.

  9. contrarian says:

    I once attended a Ukranian Lutheran (yeah, they exist Mass, where the pastor and co-pastor harmonized large portions of the liturgy, and they concelebrated. To this day, it was the most beautiful liturgy I’ve ever witnessed.

    Are there versions of the various Western Rite that have harmony in this way among the concelebrants the way that these Eastern Rites do?

  10. Okay, this is from “the cranky Irish priest”, aka nazareth priest:
    Haas, Haugen and Joncas made this so every “di rigouer” here in the States.
    A definite liturgical abuse, but, hey, who the H^^^ cares? It’s Haas-En-Joncas!
    It took a while for that to sink in; but it’s wrong and don’t do it. Ever.

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    Contrarian: Yes. I have a CD of the Novus Ordo Mass of Holy Thursday sung by the monks of the Abbey of Solesmes. The entire Mass start to finish is sung in Latin (including the readings), and the Roman canon is sung, apparently with different groupings of the concelebrants chanting different parts. Especially impressive is the way the consecration is sung with a more solemn and ornamental chant.

  12. Joao Augusto says:

    I’m a brazilian seminarist, and I hate this, I can’t support this in the Mass, I think that the Mass need be celebrated from a Priest, and not from the people.

  13. Orlandu84 says:

    The “Amen” is the proper way that the congregation “joins themselves” to the doxology. If both priest and congregation sang all of the doxology, this element of cooperation and congruence would be lost. Truly, the words are beautiful here and are a high point of Mass. They are even more beautiful symbol when everyone fulfills his particular role.

  14. Mitchell NY says:

    It amazes me that Catholics don’t sing, or don’t want to sing, often do so badly, do not like Chant, are bored with most hymns, complain when asked to sing in the Choir, and yet for some unknown reason they want to sing the Doxology belonging to the Priest. Is this simply a case of wanting what we can not have? I liked Father’s straightforward response, no beating around the bush, no eggshelling it. Simply put “You don’t explore it”

  15. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I once attended a Ukranian Lutheran…||

    I’ve seen the text. It’s basically Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with every reference to the Eucharist as a Sacrifice and the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos removed.

    I have heard concelebrating Rutheninan priests harmonize the Words of Institution.

    Orthodox practice has them said aloud only by the main celebrant.

  16. lux_perpetua says:

    papabile, care to expound on your comment about about the pre-vatican liturgical movement in Europe? your comment struck me because the only time i’ve witnessed this was when i’ve been to Mass in particularly Polish sections of the city where the old women tend to say the entire cannon in low whispers along with the priest.

  17. cmm says:

    Here in France every one used to sing the doxology when I was a child, then it stopped about 20 years ago, except for a few older people who seem unable to kick the habit. Even now, after all these years, there are still a few voices that join in.
    Seeing how hard it is to make a small change like that, I don’t know how people can expect the new Missal to work out quickly. I can almost guarantee that in 20 years there will still be people answering “and also with you” instead of “and with your spirit”, not out of any principled opposition, but just out of habit. You learn something as a child, it becomes ingrained in you.

  18. MikeM says:


    When I hear music or even just words I have committed to memory, I have an instinctive habit of muttering along. While I never actually SING the doxology, I find myself occasionally muttering the priest’s prayers at Mass. I’m certainly not under the delusion that I am praying them with the priest… I’m usually mentally praying my own prayers… but I was wondering how big of a problem this is.

    I know that it’s not a desirable thing to do, and it’s a habit I’ve made small efforts to improve, but is it worth spending focus at Mass to consciously prevent myself from ever doing so?

  19. elaurier says:

    During the weekday Mass I attend there is a certain crowd of middle aged men who attend 2-3 days per week. As soon as the offertory starts, they also start in…..they say almost everything Father says! They do remain silent during the consecration, however. They aren’t getting any encouragement from the priest…sometimes he looks totally bewildered, as if he can’t figure out how he came to be in the middle of a chorus. They all stand in the back and never make use of pews. I thought maybe this was some type of formal religious group or church sanctioned barbershop quartet thing. Except that they are lousy.

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    I was a kid, but I remember this as standard practice (rightly or wrongly) in the 70s. Sometime in late 70s or very early 80s, this was clarified/corrected – direction given that this was not to be done anymore.

  21. Phil_NL says:

    I can confirm that it is a widespread practice in Europe, and has been for years (if not decades). In fact, till this post I didn’t relalise there was a prohibition against this. My own parish is just about the only one who doesn’t do it.

    On the bright side, the practice might take a hit, at least here in the Netherlands, from some subtle changes in the (one-time use only) missals that are very popular here. They made some revisions, including prefixing lines to be said by the priest with a “Pr”. Two small letters, but wth a clear message, undoubtedly the influence of Abp. Eijk and Bp. Hurkmans, new and relatively orthodox shepards, who seem to give attention to stuff like the imprimatur.

  22. rakesvines says:

    It’s a Mass not a barber shop quartet.

  23. chironomo says:

    A great opportunity to make use of one of my favorite Movie Quotes of all time:

    “In the long, sad history of bad ideas, this is one of the worst”

    Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park II

  24. Marcin says:

    Having spent 30 years in the Polish parts of Europe, I had never heard people joining in Per ipsum… or (horribile intellectu) an Eucharistic Prayer.

  25. irishgirl says:

    Levavi-that was my thought, too!
    And you put it right on the nose there, Father Z….’You don’t explore it’ !

  26. jaykay says:

    As Magpie and Thomas S have confirmed, this practice is widespread, if not universal, in Ireland. It started back in the early 70s, perhaps as some have said in belated answer to pre-Conciliar initiatives? Can’t really comment about that, as I was only 9 when the NO came in! Anyway, it was certainly the done thing by the mid-70s. I can clearly remember some of the priests in my rather strict school forbidding it at school Masses etc. and teaching us in religion class that it was not to be done but in the end they just went along resignedly.

    Another thing that has crept in in the last 10 years is the practice of the congregation reciting the “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your Apostles…”. Priests openly encourage people to do this. I may be wrong but to me it seems like it’s all part of a dangerous touchy-feely “we’re all really the same” shtick. That sort of falseness is very common here, I should say, and not only in liturgy.

    While it’s true that Ireland did avoid the wackier shores of much of the 70s/80s craziness there is still a hard contingent of the double-knits around and true liturgical reform will be very hard here, not only because of aging hippy/magic circle types but also the prevailing current of stifling banality in practically all celebrations… outside the authorised TLM, of course.

  27. asophist says:

    I wonder if Fr. Z had any idea how widespread this practise is. I have observed it at NO masses even in the Twin Cities (of Minnesota) area, but didn’t know it was verboten. I haven’t attended a NO mass in many years, now, so don’t know if the practise of congregational singing/recitation of the doxology is still common in these parts. But, since we have plenty of parishes here where anything goes, I imagine singing of the doxology is probably the least of the abuses one normally finds.

  28. thereseb says:

    I remember this at University Chaplaincy in the early 80s – and remember the sublime day when the new chaplain arrived, prewarned – and launched into falsetto quasi-chant – which caused great confusion (most) and great hilarity (me).

  29. jflare says:

    I think I’ll risk annoying many a reader here: Many of the objects or practices that’re either required or optional within the Mass, or many things that’re not allowed, strike me as being mostly cosmetic or theatrical. Most don’t appear to have a definite need to be there, though they may contribute in some way to the overall..aura(?)..of the Mass.
    As an example, given that the roof over the altar (baldaccino?) doesn’t appear to be essential, I’ve sometimes wondered why people bother, though it DOES look heavenly, if done well.

    Beings that there appears to be so much variety in what’s allowed or not for either form of Mass, I’ll dare to ask this question:
    WHY are concelebrating priests not allowed to chant the, “Through Him, with Him…..” together?

    Is this a matter of discipline, or is there some definite theological or philosophical rationale behind it?

  30. jflare says:

    Oh bother. Forgive me if I’ve put my foot in my mouth: Re-reading that last line or two, it appears as though concelebrating priests ARE allowed to chant along.

    Raises another interesting question though:
    By what means do we discern a concelebrating priest from a non-concelebrating priest?
    I’m no liturgist folks, nor am I a priest. One priest wearing vestments looks like another to me. How do I know the difference from the pews?

    A little food to stir the pot here: Spring of 2009, I began considering that I might be called to the priesthood, so I attended a few archdiocesan events. One was the ordination of a deacon which I attended with a priest from my parish. I was quite surprised afterward to hear that one of the priests had not been concelebrating; apparently he was the Master of Ceremonies.

    How on earth would I discern this in a crowd of clerics?

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